A 39-year-old Doncaster man has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Thomas Groome - despite his body never being found.
During the sentencing at Sheffield Crown Court this morning, Mr Justice Globe ruled that Jason Thaxter, of Hexthorpe, must serve a minimum of 30 years before he can be considered for release.
Thaxter was found guilty of the murder of Mr Groome, as well as conspiracy to prevent a burial, on Friday following a five week trial.
Sentencing Thaxter, Mr Justice Globe said: “I am satisfied that your motivation was to kill, that you had a dual motive of revenge and financial gain.
“There’s been a huge amount of time and expense in trying to find the body to no avail.
“It’s almost seven years since the death and still no evidence to the location of the body has been forthcoming.
“The family remain significantly bereaved and hideously upset as a result.”
Thaxter’s sentencing follows a six-year investigation into Groome’s disappearance.
His mother, June Buttle of Doncaster town centre, was sentenced in March last year to 16-years in prison after she pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Groome, conspiracy to prevent a burial and fraud against the Thomas Groome estate.
Buttle claimed during her trial that a man, who was previously unknown to her, helped her kill Groome. She said that she then wrapped him in a carpet and the stranger chopped him into pieces, burnt him at the bottom of her garden and told her he would dispose of the remnants of Mr Groome’s body in Armthorpe woods.
Mr Justice Globe said the jury’s guilty verdict in Thaxter’s case proved Buttle’s account of Mr Groome’s death, and those responsible for it, to be false.
He said: “The jury’s verdict of guilty unequivocally means they have disbelieved June Buttle’s claim that the man who helped her to kill Tommy Groome was a man she does not know.
“It means they believe that man was you.”
Mr Groome was 53-years-old when he was last seen on New Year’s Day morning 2010 as he left his sons’ home in Thorne.
He was reported missing by his family a few weeks into the New Year and police began to investigate his disappearance.
A murder investigation was launched in 2012 and Thaxter was initially arrested, alongside Buttle, in March 2013 on suspicion of murder.
Buttle was charged in September 2014, however there was insufficient evidence at the time to charge Thaxter with any offences and he was released.
Thaxter was charged with murder in November last year, following Buttle’s manslaughter conviction eight months earlier in March 2015.
Following Thaxter’s conviction Mr Groome’s family have issued the following statement: “Thomas Groome, known to his family as Tommy was a much loved Dad, Son, Brother, Grandad and Uncle. We love and miss him so much. He was a larger than life character who
loved to travel and sing on the karaoke.
“On the 1st January 2010 we said goodbye to him not knowing that this was the last time that we would see and speak to him.
“Throughout the last five years, we have hoped and prayed that Tommy was still alive but our worst fears became a reality when we were told that Tommy had been killed.
“However his body has still not been found. We are devastated that we have been unable to lay him to rest in a place where we can visit and remember him and give him the funeral that he deserves.
“We would like to thank everyone who has been involved or assisted in the investigation into the disappearance of Tommy. This includes the Police in Ireland, Portugal and South Yorkshire. Without them, we would never have known what happened to Tommy.”
The court was told how the investigation into Mr Groome’s murder is estimated to have cost South Yorkshire Police in excess of £2million.
This cost is expected to rise as police continue to search for Mr Groome's body.
Following his conviction, Senior Investigating Officer, T/Detective Chief Superintendent Lisa Ray said: “My thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mr Groome as they are still unable to lay their loved one to rest because of Thaxter’s selfish and cowardly actions.
“I am very pleased with the result, as even though June Buttle pleaded guilty to Mr Groome’s manslaughter, we knew Thaxter had been involved in his death.
“We have worked relentlessly to uncover further evidence to be able to build a strong case against Thaxter, and to prove he was an intrinsic component in Mr Groome’s death.
“While there will still be untold grief and distress for Mr Groome’s family, as neither Buttle or Thaxter have provided the answers they need as to what happened to him and where he is now, I hope today they may feel some sense of justice has been served knowing that Thaxter will now also be behind bars for a very long time.”